On “choosing the bigger life” — and why that might mean the opposite

“Need to make an important decision?  Choose the bigger life.”

This is the advice of happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin in one of her podcast episodes.

But what does choosing big look like in God’s kingdom?

Often, it might look something like washing dirt, sand, and debris off twenty-four sweaty male feet:

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:3-5 (NIV)

Note John’s point that Jesus did this because he understood his authority.  Because he knew that God had made him head of the whole universe, and that He’d soon be in the very presence of Yahweh himself — he washed feet.  Grimy, smelly feet.

Jesus made himself big by making himself small — as small and insignificant as a common household foot-washing slave.  Of course, he also did this simply by becoming human.

Jesus taught his disciples,

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

from Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)


Here’s what God is repeatedly reminding me lately:

I don’t have to strive for the world’s standards of success.

I don’t have to become well-known for anything.

I don’t have to gain a large following of Instagram users.

I don’t have to write some revolutionary piece of literature, start my own business, fill up my calendar with speaking engagements, or become some famous creative person. (1)

God isn’t calling me to be important as our culture defines it.


He IS calling me to love my husband and children.

He IS calling me to serve my local church.

He IS calling me to show Jesus to the people I come in contact with each day.

Sarah Mackenzie says in Teaching From Rest, “I’m not called to be successful.  I’m called to be faithful.”

So instead of continually constructing these grand schemes about what the Lord may have planned for my life, I need to be faithful with the little, remembering that to God, smallness is grand.  

I can choose big by choosing small:

Doing my family’s laundry.  And actually folding it.

Swiffering the bathrooms.

Reading We’re Going On A Bear Hunt to my toddler for the fourth time that day.

Happily holding my 5-month-old and walking her around the house for extended periods of time, even when the dinner dishes are sprawled unwashed across the kitchen counters.

Being nicer than necessary to the grocery clerk and the waitress and the library worker.

Volunteering to teach a Bible class.  And preparing for it early instead of at the last minute.

Being a better listener.

Writing some words on a card instead of a blog post or Facebook comment and sending it to someone.

Having people over for dinner — fancy food not required.  Tacos or chili or pancakes are completely fine.  So is an imperfect house.

What God most cares about is not important careers or perfectly kept homes or fame on social media.  It’s washing feet and carrying crosses and giving glory to him in all of it.

Dreaming can be good, but often I need to get my head out of the clouds, dig my feet into the ground, and get to work right where I am today.  To “bloom where I’m planted (2).”

Mother Theresa said,

Very humble work – that is where you and I must be.  For there are many people who can do big things.  But there are very few people who will do the small things.

I need daily reminders from God that, in his kingdom, smallness is a gift.

That my smallness highlights his greatness.

And that in reality, we’re all living large — overflowing in the richness of God.


(1) – Note:  If you are one of these people — a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, artist, or if you’re on the path to becoming something like this — YOU ARE AWESOME!!  Seriously.  Keep doing exactly what you’re doing if that’s your calling.  God calls some to be great leaders like Moses and Paul and Esther.  He calls some to create beautiful works of art like David or the builders of the tabernacle.  He also calls some to be Marys who take good care of their household or Andrews who simply tell others one-on-one about Jesus.  Deep down I know that right now in my current season of life, God’s calling me to quiet, humble, faithful service right where I am, and I’ll be happiest and most glorifying to Him when I lean into this calling.

(2) – I had a difficult time sourcing this quote, but one historian attributes it to St. Francis de Sales.  I think the full quote is relevant here:

Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.






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